Why Is My Pizza Dough Tough? And How to Fix It

Whenever you go out for a meal, it’s highly likely that the restaurant will have pizza on the menu. This signature Italian dish has become a staple for many food establishments and is among the most popular dishes in the world as people like to try the different combinations of pizza available.

However, as home cooking has become hugely popular in recent years, people have been eager to recreate their favorite dishes so it’s understandable that there are a huge number of budding chefs wanting to try out making pizza from scratch.

Pizza is a great dish to try because it offers a few challenges for those who are wanting to expand their skill set whilst also being relatively simple overall. When done correctly, it’s easy to conjure up a perfect pizza and try to bring a bit of Italian cuisine into your home.

There are three main aspects to pizza making: the base, the sauce and the toppings. In true Italian style, all of these factors should be made from scratch using fresh ingredients and it is the base that is the most challenging aspect of the whole pizza which is why you are probably here.

Pizza dough can be a tricky thing to master, especially when it comes to the kneading process and making sure that the dough has proved properly.

When making pizza dough, you have to knead the dough either by hand or with a dough mixer in order to ensure that the gluten strands are developing in your dough as it proves. The key to a successful dough is all in the kneading process as this will determine how well it will bake when it is cooked.

With a traditional dough only needing four ingredients: flour, yeast, salt and water, ensuring that there is a perfect combination between the flour and water specifically is important as this dictates how balanced the gluten strands will appear.

However, it can be difficult to perfect this at first as kneading is all about that balance and making sure that the dough has been thoroughly treated. 

It probably comes as no surprise that over-kneading is a common mistake made for people, particularly those who are new to the kneading technique. This may be because you are unfamiliar with the texture and consistency of the dough. Or maybe you are an experience baker and are revisiting kneading.

Whatever your reason, we have researched everything that you need to know so you needn’t worry about anything. In this article, we’ll be taking you through why your pizza dough is tough and how to rectify it as well as what you can do to avoid this in the future.

Once you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be eager to try and perfect your pizza dough and you’ll never be faced with a tough pizza dough ever again.

Traditional Pizza Dough

It’s probably common knowledge that pizza originated from Italy centuries ago, specifically Naples but it has a much richer history than is given credit for.

Made as a dish to feed the working classes of Naples which was an extremely poor place to live, pizza was made from accessible and fresh ingredients that anyone could source and the generous slices meant that plenty of people could have a piece and avoid any hunger for a while. 

When people think of traditional Italian or Neapolitan pizzas, they probably imagine a lot of difficult techniques and ingredients used in the preparation and baking.

However, making pizza is incredibly simple and doesn’t use any ingredients that are hard to source. This is because pizza is a dish that is meant to be enjoyed by all.

With a traditional pizza dough being made from water, yeast, salt and soft wheat flour, it’s an easy dish to master and can be made by all for any number of people. Whether you are making it for yourself or for a party, pizza has always been a successful dish that can cater to a variety of diets and tastes.

As time has gone by, we have seen the inclusion of gluten-free variations, vegan and vegetarian pizzas and plenty of people trying to reinvent the pizza by making them square shaped.

However, time and time again, people go back to the traditional Italian and Neapolitan method because of the amount of interest there is in traditional cooking.

Should I make my own pizza dough?

If you want to make your own pizza, it is traditional to make the pizza base from scratch, however, you can opt to have a premade pizza base and focus on preparing the sauce and toppings only.

If you are wanting to make your own pizza dough from scratch, it’s much better because the ingredients will be fresher and you can make it according to your own taste.

Making your own pizza dough means that you can further your cooking skill set and also make your pizza the way you want to. Part of the charm of cooking from scratch is that it can be trial and error whilst also being fun.

For those who are on a very restricted time, buying a premade pizza base can save the bulk of preparation time as it will be ready to go in the oven for cooking. However, making your own pizza dough will feel even more rewarding when you see the final result. 

Is homemade pizza better than store bought?

Simply put, yes, having a homemade pizza will always taste better than store bought. This is because the ingredients are fresher and it will be freshly prepared as well.

Whether you compare homemade pizzas with a pizza brought from the frozen section or deli at a supermarket, there is nothing better than homemade food.

Also, it’s more cost effective to make your own food from scratch as you can get numerous pizzas from one batch of ingredients which you can easily freeze or refrigerate. 

Another advantage of having homemade pizza is that you can custom make it for your taste or the taste of whoever you’re making it for. Whether they like the traditional tomato sauce or like a BBQ base or if they have a huge array of different toppings or like things simple, you have complete agency to make the pizza how you want to.

In terms of the pizza dough, you can choose how thick to make it depending on how much of a crunch you want. Thinner dough will have a strong crunch whereas a thicker dough will become soft and will be unlikely to char.

There are plenty of recipes available online or in cookbooks that specialize in different pizza bases so you can make one that suits you best.

Why is my pizza dough tough?

If your pizza dough is too tough, it will be because there is too much flour in the mix in comparison to the water. A lot of people get perplexed by the sticky texture that the dough initially has and add flour to get rid of this quickly.

However, the sticky texture is important because it allows the gluten to form in the dough and allows the dough to smooth out and gain that springy texture before leaving it to prove.

If your pizza dough is too tough when you leave it to prove, it won’t have the same rise as you would want it too as the gluten won’t expand as it should. 

Another reason why your pizza dough is tough could be the type of flour used when making the dough. When making pizza dough, you should be using a softer flour such as “00” flour as strong protein flour will overwhelm any gluten develop in the dough thus meaning that the dough will be extremely chewy once it is cooked and may even be inedible if using a lot of strong flour.

If you are kneading by hand then you should be able to tell when the dough is beginning to become over-kneaded when it becomes tough as you knead it on the counter.

The best tip to follow is ripping off a small ball of dough and stretching it slightly to see if the gluten membrane has begun to show.

If the knead has been overdone then it will simply tear off without showing any membrane as the gluten strands have become too tight and will need to be corrected before being left to prove.

How to fix tough pizza dough

So how do you actually fix tough pizza dough? If your pizza dough seems tough and it hasn’t been proven or baked yet then balance out the flour with some more water as this will wetten the dough and allow the gluten to develop.

Always ensure that you follow a recipe if you can because if you are preparing a pizza dough based on blind guesses then it isn’t likely to work out, especially if you are unfamiliar with the techniques.

Whatever kind of pizza dough you are wanting to make, there are plenty of cookbooks and websites that have lots of recipes for you to try.

If you need to add water to the pizza dough then add a little bit rather than a lot as it will allow you to monitor the progress of the dough. Allow the water to be kneaded in and take a piece of the dough and stretch it to see if the gluten membrane is visible.

You may need to add a further portion of water but making sure that you don’t overwhelm the dough with an abundance of water is key as you want to try and get it into balance.

If your pizza dough has been cooked and it is too tough then the best way to repair it is placing it near a warm stove and pushing it down with a rolling pin to get the gluten strands growing.

It won’t be a perfect pizza dough by any means as the kneading process is what helps to develop the gluten but it will be less tough and chewy when it comes to eating it. 

How to make a successful pizza dough

To make a successful pizza dough, all you need is 600ml, 1kg of “00” or soft wheat flour, salt and yeast. Make sure that your yeast is active otherwise you won’t have the rise and prove that you need from the dough.

Although there is a lot depending on the kneading process, once you have done this successfully then the rest of the pizza is perfectly easy and you’ll be ready to make even more perfect pizzas in the future.

Knead the ingredients together, starting with the flour and salt before adding in the water and yeast after a few minutes. It can take around 25 minutes to knead by hand or 8 minutes by machine.

If you are kneading by hand, you can have a better judgement as to how much your dough has been proved. On the other hand, kneading with a machine such as a dough mixer does take less time, however, you do have to take a couple of intervals to judge the kneading process. 

Whichever method you choose to knead, both bring incredible results when done correctly. Some people who have cooked for years and years may be used to kneading by hand and don’t feel like a machine is needed.

However, for those who don’t have the space on the counter to knead or the time then a dough mixer is perfect because it’s all contained and doesn’t make as much mess which is ideal for those who lead very busy lifestyles or may own a business and not have a lot of time to tidy up if they have a lot of clients. 

The most important thing to remember when making your pizza dough is not to worry too much about making mistakes. If this is your first time making pizza dough then you can use this as a learning experience for when you try it again.

Kneading dough is something that not a lot of people get right the first time and finding the balance between the flour and the water especially is a huge part of the pizza dough making process.

In conclusion, always make sure to monitor the dough carefully as you knead whether it is by hand or machine. This way you can really get to grips with the texture and consistency of the dough. Also, it’ll help you to realise when is the right time to stop kneading and store the dough away.

Over-kneading is such a common mistake because people become confused when the dough is extremely sticky and don’t think it is meant to be at first.

However, as mentioned earlier in the article, it is so important to have that sticky consistency as the gluten begins to form. Use this information as your basic research and when it comes to rectifying your dough, remember to apply it the next time you try to make a pizza dough or even a loaf of bread.

Cooking from scratch should always be fun so it’s important to not get too upset if it goes wrong. If you don’t think your dough can be corrected when baking then simply try to start again and bear in mind the balance between the water and flour creates a sticky dough before settling into its smooth and springy surface.


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